European Parliament Warns of Human Trafficking at World Cup

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The European Parliament is warning about the trafficking of women and children during the 2006 World Cup of Soccer, being hosted by Germany.

Soccer's world championship, in which teams from the United States and 31 other countries will compete from June 9 through July 9, is expected to attract not only soccer fans from all over the world but also traffickers of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The European Parliament, a body of the 15-nation European Union (EU), expressed its concern January 17 about the trafficking problem during the World Cup because prostitution is legal in certain zones of German cities.  The tournament will be played in 12 German cities, ranging from Berlin to Stuttgart.

The January 17 statement calls on all EU member states, “especially Germany, to take appropriate measures in the course of the World Cup football tournament in 2006 to prevent trafficking of women and forced prostitution.” The Parliament goes on to call for member states to enforce the law and strengthen prosecutions and punishments of traffickers, accomplices and those seeking sexual services from minors, as well as prosecuting money laundering of the proceeds from trafficking.

The Parliament quoted a U.S. State Department report that said about 80 percent of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year are women and girls.  More than 100,000 women are the victims of trafficking in the countries that comprise the European Union, according to the report.

The State Department report said the United States provided $96 million in anti-trafficking assistance to foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations in 2004, which the department said demonstrates the United States' "strong commitment to this cause."  The June 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report, available on the State Department Web site, surveys the counter-trafficking activities in 150 nations. (See related article.)

A May 2004 State Department fact sheet said human trafficking involves victims "who are forced, defrauded or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation." (See fact sheet.)

President Bush signed legislation January 10 that strengthens U.S. efforts to fight human trafficking at home and abroad.  Bush reiterated American determination "to fight and end this modern form of slavery."  (See related article.)

The European Parliament said it had adopted a report proposing strategies to "tackle this dreadful problem" of human trafficking, including measures to deal with the supply and demand sides as well as the traffickers.

The Parliament called for research into the underlying causes of what puts people at risk for human trafficking, and for research on the factors that affect demand for sexual services and sexual exploitation of women and children.

The Parliament's report suggests "practical action," such as awareness-raising campaigns about the dangers of trafficking and educating the "vulnerable members of society in the countries of origin, to alert and sensitize the public about the problem and reduce demand in the countries of destination."

Other measures envisaged by the Parliament include national and international telephone help-lines.  The Parliament also highlighted the need to curb the use of the Internet for sexual exploitation.

The U.S. team starts its World Cup play June 12 against the Czech Republic in the city of Gelsenkirchen.  The World Cup, which is played every four years, last was won by Brazil in 2002.  The Brazilians open their 2006 tournament in Berlin June 13 against Croatia. (See related article.)

The European Parliament statement is available on its Web site.

For additional information, see Human Trafficking.